This week: Previously we did the five-stars so “Only recruiting rankings matter!” guy can send that to his three-star-loving pal. Now it’s “Recruiting rankings don’t matter!” guy’s turn to forward a link that proves nothing except we’re short on #content in the offseason. Also it’s badly named because I’m including 2-stars. Also also it’s going to be more focused on their recruiting stories since you probably know enough about their Michigan careers.
Rules: There are two ways to make an all-under-recruited list: a) the best of all those who qualified, or b) performance relative to recruiting rankings. I think b) is more fun, but you end up leaving off too-obvious candidates. I’m going with a combination of both: best eligible player for how I construct my team, but if it’s close the lower-ranked recruit gets in.
Also it’s by college production, not NFL.
Cutoff Point: Had to be less than a 3.9-star based on my composite recruiting database—which goes back to 1990—who earned a scholarship. For reference that means Carlo Kemp is eligible and Jibreel Black is not. To avoid guys that one scouting service just ignored we’re leaving out anyone who made a top-250 list for two or more services or anyone’s top-100 (which means Mike Hart is disqualified because HE WASN’T A THREE-STAR except to the two services that left online databases.) Also not doing special teams because they’re always rated 3-stars.
Preemptive Shut Up, Stars Don’t Matter Guy: There were 278 players who fit the criteria in my database, compared to 93 who got any kind of fifth star, so if you’re comparing this team to the team of blue chips remember you have to sing three times as many players to get this level of quality. For reference here are the fates of Michigan recruits 1990-2018 by recruiting ranking:
Rating as Recruit
2- or 3-star
Conclusion: Recruiting rankings matter, but they’re just a guideline
Quarterback: Tom Brady
Yes I did say this is only based on college production. I admit to being a “Put in Henson” guy, right up until a few games into 1999. Michigan that year had OL problems due to injury and Tom Brady was surviving while Henson was constantly getting driven from the pocket. The MSU game—a loss—sealed it as Brady nearly brought Michigan back from a massive deficit.
As a recruit he was on the borderline between three and four stars. His video is out there too if you want to see what the scouts did, which was a crisp passer with a great feel for the game and tiny chicken legs you’re afraid will snap the first time he’s sacked. USC had first pick of Cali QBs, could get five-star Quincy Woods, and over the strong objections of OC Mike Riley, took local boy John Fox as their second dude even though then-USC head coach was, like Brady, a Serra alum. UCLA took Cade McNown so Brady’s second option was out. Stanford was in the area but chose Chad Hutchinson and Tim Smith, whom Lemming rated just behind Brady.
By then however Brady was a senior and Michigan had had him on campus and made him their first target for 1995 QB. Moeller (Excalibur was a few months in the future) and QB coach Kit Cartright already had a stocked QB room between Scot Loeffler, Jay Riemersma, Brian Griese, and Scott Dreisbach, so they were staying out of the crazy battles over Dan Kendra and Bobby Sablehaus, the #1 and 2 overall players, in the class. Michigan’s other real target was Chad Plummer, who went to Cincy.
Honorable Mention: John Navarre, Brian Griese (who technically walked on but only because his dad offered to pay), Wilton Speight, Scott Dreisbach, Jake Rudock
[After THE JUMP: I post the 313 video again, twice]
Rule: This team is for those who made their contributions off the field. I don’t mean being a quiet model citizen; I mean doing things that we found entertaining, insane, or otherwise meme-worthy.
Cutoff Point: Had to exist in the Michigan consciousness during the Time of Blog (2005-present)
Quarterback: David Cone
Please still exist please still exist please still exist DAMMIT.
Why you gotta use MySpace, Notorious C.O.N.E.? Since stone age social media no longer hosts, former WR Toney Clemons filmed roommate/former QB David Cone in their apartment laying some sick rhymes (free mgoshirt to whoever can track down a copy of the album for us).
Fortunately MVictors still has the audio, if the vid is gone for all time. But that video was so good.
Honorable Mention: Denard. How do you separate Brian’s kid’s name, Shoelace, the smile, Whaaaaat?!?, the cover of the last NCAA edition for a decade, and a crumpled up mailbox from the actual dilithium? You can’t, and the purpose of this list is to honor the Coners because these lists otherwise exist just for an excuse to put Denard at QB when you wouldn’t otherwise.
The NFL preseason is officially underway, and with mandatory roster cuts (down to 75) set for August 26th, now is a good time to check in with the former Wolverines currently playing in the league. After scouring the interwebs, here's my best guess at where each Michigan representative stands as we near the start of the season.
Locks To Make It
Jason Avant, WR, Carolina. After being relegated to decoy duty in Chip Kelly's offense for Philadelphia in 2013, Avant—who boasts the lowest drop percentage in the NFL over the last three years—should be one of Cam Newton's top targets with his move to the Panthers.
Tom Brady, QB, New England. Brady threw for over 4,300 yards with 25 touchdowns last season while working with a very raw receiving corps. It was universally considered a down year. I think he's gonna make it, y'all.
Alan Branch, DE, Buffalo. Branch was an integral member of the D-line rotation for the Bills last season, recording 39 tackles, and he should reprise that role working behind up-and-coming star Marcell Dareus again this year.
Stevie Brown, FS, New York Giants. After finishing second in the NFL with eight interceptions in 2012, Brown missed all of 2013 with a torn ACL. He's back from the injury and expected to start at free safety.
Larry Foote, ILB, Arizona. The longtime Steeler—Foote has played 11 of his 12 NFL seasons in Pittsburgh—was cut in the offseason, but quickly found a home in Arizona, which lost both of their starting ILBs from last season. He's currently atop the depth chart, and even if he doesn't hold that spot, he should stick around to provide veteran leadership for a young position group.
Jonathan Goodwin, C/G, New Orleans.According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Goodwin and Tim Lelito, the two players competing to start at center, are "certain to make the final roster." Goodwin's ability to play both center and guard gives him extra job security, even at 35 years old, as does his relatively cheap one-year deal.
Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati. While Hall tore his right Achilles tendon last season, just two seasons removed from tearing his left Achilles, he's back in the starting lineup as Cinci's slot corner, a spot he plays about as well as anybody in the league when healthy. Barring further injury, his spot is very much safe.
David Harris, ILB, New York Jets. Jets head coach Rex Ryan called Harris "the most underrated player in the league" after he was left of the NFL Network's top 100 players list for 2014. Yeah, he's safe.
Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville. Though Jacksonville used the #3 overall pick on QB Blake Bortles, Henne started the first preseason game, and the Jaguars higher-ups insist there's no QB controversy. Bortles is the QB of the future; for now, however, this is Henne's job.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Tennessee. First-round picks don't get cut in their rookie seasons, especially when they're competing for starting jobs.
Jake Long, OT, St. Louis. Long is coming back from a torn ACL and MCL, so he's been held out so far in the preseason, but he's on track to make a surpringly quick return. Also, he's Jake Long, which should be enough.
Michael Schofield, OG/OT, Denver. Third-round picks also don't get cut in their rookie season, except in very unusual circumstances. Considering Schofield is "in the mix" at both left guard and right tackle, it looks like he'll be a critical backup at the very least in Denver.
LaMarr Woodley, DE, Oakland. After seven productive years in Pittsburgh, Woodley was unceremoniously released by the Steelers over the offseason, and the Raiders were happy to get him. He provides a major upgrade from them at DE, a spot that may suit him better than 3-4 OLB, where he played in Pittsburgh.
Charles Woodson, S, Oakland. At 37, Woodson came back to Oakland, where he's beloved by the fanbase. He'll play safety there, and he is Charles Woodson, so he'll play well until he decides it's time to hang up the cleats.
Good lord, this was brutal. Hockey had a pretty clear cutoff that sat nicely at five, and getting to five in basketball was a stretch. I left Steve Breaston, Leon Hall, Allan Branch, and Zoltan Mesko outhere. Jebus.
PROS: Tough-talking no-neck was a four year starter at center perfectly suited for Michigan's zone running game; won the Rimington as a senior. Hilarious interview with absolutely no regard for cliché. High fantangibles rating. At times seemed to be the difference between doom and success in the Michigan ground game. Broke something serious in his foot in the Sugar Bowl, watched Rocko Khoury make some panic snaps on Michigan's first series, and played the rest of the game seriously damaged.
Experienced both coaching changes and was one of the seniors Who Stayed™. A huge factor in the locker room uniting behind Hoke.
CONS: Had some injury problems. Inexplicably had his snap count jumped against MSU and only MSU for like three straight years.
PROS: Four-year contributor and three-year starter who always teetered on the edge of being great. Finally accelerated down the senior-year stretch into a dominant nose tackle. During this period forced a pitch on a Nebraska speed option.
This is about all you need to know. You could not block him. Michigan's insanely good third/fourth and short defense started with him (and ended with Kovacs).
But wait, there's more: with Michigan's already-thin defensive line depth shattered by injury before the Sugar Bowl, Martin and Van Bergen faced off with future first-round pick David Wilson in a game where getting a stop meant you got four snaps before you were back on the field. They singlehandedly kept Michigan in the game despite dying halfway through the second quarter. A performance that should pass into legend the same way Hunwick's North Dakota game will.
Also a member of Those Who Stayed™. Along with Molk and Van Bergen, Martin got the Full Andy Dufresne from his time at Michigan.
CONS: Seemingly endorses "In The Big House." Not as highly regarded by the NFL as a few other guys on this list.
PROS: Third and final member of Those Who Stayed™ on the list. Also a four-year contributor and longtime starter, underrated because of his lack of playmaking but still the TFL leader on last year's team. The other guy holding Michigan's defensive line together through sheer force of will in the Sugar Bowl. Virtually impossible to knock down. Screwed up a check in the 2009 Indiana game, leading to an 85-yard touchdown, then singlehandedly annihilated the next IU drive, giving Michigan a chance to pull it out.
CONS: Probably the least-great player on this list. Here as a tribute to Michigan's phoenix act in 2011. Not enticing to NFL. Still… look at that. This is not a list of the best players ever, so…
PROS: The best player on an awful Michigan defense and awful Michigan teams. Did not get the Full Andy Dufresne since his career ended halfway through the sewage tube. Still bore all of this with a Denard-like beatific smile. Just killed people, all the time.
NFL did really like him, drafting him in the top half of the first round.
CONS: Unfortunately his impact was limited because the team around him was terrible.
PROS: Sideline-to-sideline missile was cerebral to the point of near-genius. Always there. Always. Made a habit out of juking(!) offensive linemen in zone schemes, making them think the play was going one way, then exploding into the ballcarrier when this was not the case. Junior year was tremendously underrated thanks to chaos around him; was major lynchpin and possibly the best player on Michigan's monster 2006 defense. Yes, I mean that seriously.
Early and still prime example of the usefulness of UFRing makes him near to my heart; not sure if you care. Validated all praise from Michigan fans by instantly becoming NFL tackling machine upon entry to the league.
Kind of looks like Worf.
CONS: Lacks iconic wow play. Others started longer than he did.
PROS: Emphatically does not have David Harris's problem since he was the target on two of the most iconic plays of the aughts: Oh, Wide Open and Lloyd Carr's Last Second. An electric playmaker the rest of the time, a guy who wasn't the biggest but was the fastest and hardest to keep track of. Had that brilliant slow-up-to-stall-the-DB-then-extend-for-the-TD move down pat. More of a technician than given credit for. Whenever I think of Manningham, I think of that Citrus Bowl when DeBord said "screw it, spread time" and Holly Rowe reporting that Florida deathbacker Brandon Spikes was chasing Manningham all over the field on his incessant end-arounds, saying "damn, boy, you good."
CONS: Got suspended for the weed, something that took some doing in the mid-aughts. Widely regarded as kind of maybe not the nicest guy to ever make it through the program.
PROS: Amongst the nicest guys to ever make it through the program. Skillet-sized hands are made of industrial-strength adhesive. An elite-level possession receiver who was everyone's safety blanket. Targeted all the time and made all the catches. Probably the most common ex-player to be referenced in "You May Remember Me From Such Players As," to the point where I actively try to avoid it now.
That about sums it up.
CONS: Did drop that one pass once, you know, that one. Never a huge deep threat.
PROS: Four year starter with great backstory and running style burned into your brain. No speed at all but capable of juking in a phone booth and grinding out two, three, four yards after contact. Got a standing ovation for a particular eight yard run against Penn State once. Came out of a tiny school in upstate New York with outlandish rushing stats and a youtube clip in which he jukes every player on the opposing team twice.
Never, ever fumbled except twice inside the five against Florida in his last game. Pretty much the only thing standing between Michigan and a yards per carry under three during his time at Michigan.
CONS: Injury prone. Started this incredibly annoying "little brother" business. Spice added by mouth often backfired; went 0-fer against OSU.
PROS: Kills people. Brandon Graham was Woodley 2.0, a devastating defensive end who could not be blocked one-on-one. Has enormous Wolverine tattoo on arm. Finished off the Oh Wide Open game with the Yakety-sax-capping scoop and score. Fighting with David Harris and Allan Branch for title of best player on 2006 defense.
CONS: OSU 0-fer does not quite apply but really kind of does since he did not contribute much in 2003. That's about it. Kind of think maybe Graham was better since he had way less help and still produced.
PROS: Is he a man or a block-long wall? Only his mother knows, and these days she's not even sure. Four-year starter who rolled off the NFL left tackle prototype line and let exactly zero guys not roid-raging get to the quarterback when he was on the field. The first overall pick his draft year, all-American everywhere, etc, etc, etc, you get the idea.
CONS: Fantangibles low. Another Michigan great who had to suffer through the indignity of 0-fer OSU. Hurt most of the 2005 season. Not sure what I'd write about him.
Molk as Rimington finalist: check, plus. Kelvin Grady's 30 catches: not so much.
Spring football is over, meaning we're entering the darkest days of the offseason, the times when college football bloggers must get creative (aigh!) and come up with something, anything, to post while hoping nobody on the team gets arrested (usually as a product of being as bored with the offseason as us).
This is one of those posts.
Last year, Brian went HAM with his football preview, churning out so much content that I ended up previewing Western lest the first game pass without comment. Now I get to look back on all of Brian's hard work, use hindsight as a crutch to make me look intelligent, and critique his predictions. It's up to you to decide whether it's coincidence that I'm doing this while he's rather incapacitated.
This review will be posted in three parts. Today, I'll look at the offensive personnel. Later, I'll tackle the defense (ooh, role reversal), then finally look at special teams and Brian's "stupid predictions," (his term, not mine). This first post was less fun than I expected; outside of some inflated projections for the wide receivers, Brian kinda nailed it when it came to the offense. BOO.
Koger's role will be up to him. He'll be somewhere between a B- and B+ blocker and will have opportunities to establish himself a major part of the passing game. Our sample size on his hands is still very small and the bad part is now two years removed and he's quite an athlete—his upside is high. I can't help but think he's been held back by things other than Rich Rodriguez's preferences, though. I'm betting on a good but unmemorable senior year.
I have a difficult time coming up with a better description for Kevin Koger's final Michigan season. He was a solid, but unspectacular, blocker who recorded 23 catches for 244 yards and four touchdowns. That was more production than he'd had under Rodriguez, but I had to check MGoBlue to see if he even earned All-Big Ten honorable mention (he did). My lasting memories of Koger will remain the insane catch against Western in 2009 and his battles with the dropsies the next year, along with his "KogerNotKroger" Twitter handle.
The Mouton comparison is ominous since we just watched that guy start for three years without getting any better, but Lewan hasn't suffered at the hands of poor coaching yet and won't in the future. This should be the year he drops the crazy hot girl act and establishes himself as an All Big Ten left tackle. He'll still be a little penalty-prone but it will be worth it.
Taylor Lewan earned second-team All-B1G honors from the coaches, honorable mention from the media, and generally was the team's best non-Molk offensive lineman. He still took a few dumb penalties, but not as many as he did in 2010. Again, spot on, old chap.
That is admittedly me trying to find a concern. David Molk is great. You can never tell which interior linemen are going to be up for postseason awards but I'll be incensed if he's not All Big Ten after a healthy year. I think he'll be a Rimington finalist.
See: picture at top of post.
Al Borges is going to do his damndest to keep Denard productive, upright, and beaming.
Check, check, and of course, check.
He'll give Denard a more sophisticated offense that he won't execute as well as Borges needs him to; he'll use Denard's legs but not quite as effectively as Rodriguez would have. These guys are good because they've spent a lot of time specializing in ways that make them successful. There is a necessary lack of efficiency once they get outside their comfort zones.
It was a near-impossible task for Denard to replicate his 2010 rushing production under Borges, especially since the coaches explicitly stated that wasn't at all the goal. He still finished as the team's leading rusher, broke the 1,000-yard barrier, scored 16 rushing touchdowns, and averaged over five yards per carry. As for the execution of the offense as a whole: yup, there were some efficiency issues. Yards/attempt, completion percentage, and passing efficiency all dropped, while interceptions rose to an unsightly 15. This prediction didn't exactly go out on a limb, but that didn't make it any less right.
Yards per carry drop quite a bit but nose above 5.
2010 YPC: 5.58.
2011 YPC: 5.15.
If [Junior Hemingway] can manage [to stay healthy] through the season he's going to end the year with a ton of catches. Even if the Michigan offense doesn't go full MANBALL right away continued development from Denard Robinson will make difficult pro-style throws that frequently target outside wide receivers more feasible; Borges's offense will make them more frequent. Combine that with Hemingway's main skill and there will be jump balls for the taking.
ALL OF THE JUMP BALLS. This piece of prognostication would've made it into the above category if not for this next bit:
If he can maintain his 18.5 YPC he'll challenge Roundtree for the most receiving yards on the team. Expect a bit under 1,000 yards from him.
Hemingway actually averaged a tic above 20 YPC and still led the team in receptions, but leading the team meant catching 34 passes for 699 yards. Junior did manage to stay healthy, which was nice, and then stole all of our hearts during (and after) the Sugar Bowl. Y U NO PREDICT HE STEAL OUR HEARTS, BRIAN?
Huyge's flexibility will allow Michigan to flip Schofield onto the field if anyone other than Molk goes down. He's likely to start a few games in preparation for a full time role in 2011… unless he rips the job away from Huyge right now.
Given the way Huyge's career has gone and the general vibe coming from camp chatter and Funk's public statements, that's a strong possibility. Huyge's never been much of a pass blocker and Michigan's offense is going to require quite a bit more of that as Robinson starts making more and more five and seven step drops.
This was right on in that a non-Molk OL (Ricky Barnum) went down with an injury, and Michael Schofield was the man to replace him. What Brian didn't see coming—and I don't think anyone predicted this—is that Huyge would remain at tackle while Schofield filled in admirably at left guard, keeping the job even after Barnum returned.
Tousssaint [extra 's' there, boss] seems to have that jittery short-range quickness that allows little guys to survive, even thrive, as they pick their way through the chaos.
I'm hoping he emerges as the guy. If he beats out a healthy Shaw he'll be well on his way to translating that tape to college, and I could get used to a jump-cutting Houdini with sprinter's speed. Toussaint is the offense's Roh: the wildcard. Anything from Mike Hart (except crappy :( ) to Mike Hart (except fast!) is possible.
No full credit here what with the significant hedging and the fact that Brian had Michael Shaw listed as the (tenuous) starter, even though that's because Brady Hoke flat-out said so before the season. Instead, Toussaint was the man all year, rushing for 1,041 yards on 5.6 YPC and surpassing all reasonable expectations in the process. Fitz's speed turned out to be more of the sprinter's variety than what he showed in his previous, injury-plagued season, and the jump-cuts were plentiful. He wasn't quite Mike Hart (except fast!); Michigan didn't need that with Denard playing quarterback. The potential is there, however.
Michigan finishes around 15th in FEI and other advance metrics. By yardage they drop to about the same spot; scoring offense increases from 25th to match.
Brian actually underestimated the offense in terms of the advanced metrics—9th in FEI—though successfully predicted that it wouldn't quite match the #2 rank of the previous year. Yardage fell to 42nd in the country, and scoring offense was 26th. The larger point remained true—the offense was quite efficient, but not quite at the level of 2010's spread-and-shred—but the raw numbers didn't quite match up.
Not So Much
Roundtree's production will drop this year as Michigan tries to get Hemingway and Koger more involved. He can't expect set the single-game receiving record every year. He'll still run neck and neck with Hemingway fro [sic] the most receiving yards on the team. [Ed-S: hey, I remember that vacation--it was nice]
Roundtree's production did drop, just more significantly than expected. With QB OH NOES mostly gone from the offense (and Roundtree flat-out dropping the one such opportunity I recall), he finished with just 19 catches for 355 yards, well behind both Hemingway and Jeremy Gallon on the stat sheet. Speaking of Gallon...
Entering his final season [Kelvin] Grady's best shot at extensive playing time is based on 1) a lot of three wide and 2) Roundtree playing mostly on the outside. In that situation he's the established veteran. He'd get a crack at screens and seams and whatnot en route to a breakout mini-'Tree year. More likely is a moderately increased role as Roundtree bounces inside and out with around 30 catches.
First, a sadface— :( —for the lack of screens, not to mention blitheringly wide-open seams. Now, Grady's final stat line: five catches, 75 yards. Brian did recover with a nice hedge—"It could go sour for Grady if Jeremy Gallon translates chatter into playing time"—especially since Gallon produced Grady's projected stat line: 31 catches netting 453 yards. Still, swing and a miss on which player would produce said stat line, and I'm really reaching for stuff to critique here
Denard rushes for 1200 yards. His interception rate falls significantly but is still not great.
Shaw claims the starting job to himself in week four, gets injured shortly after, and Toussaint takes over. Both are much better than Smith at making extra yards. At the end of the year they've all got somewhere between 400 and 800 yards.
Toussaint's rapid rise wasn't foreseen by Brian, who expected more of a backfield-by-committee, especially in the early going. Shaw never captured the starting job, appeared in nine games, and finished with 199 yards on 31 carries. That made Shaw a more effective runner than Smith, who had 298 yards on 50 carries, but both were surprisingly effective (6.42 YPC for Shaw, 5.96 for Smith, though obviously in limited action for both).
Hopkins creates windows other backs don't. When three yards and a cloud of dust is a win, he'll be in there.
Or he'll continue putting the ball on the ground—see: Denard's immaculate rushing TD against Notre Dame—and get relegated to fullback.
The renovations will be completed just in time for no one to be able to afford tickets.
Combine crushage. Mike Martin may not have put up as many reps as he wanted in the bench press but he still finished second amongst DTs. In everything else he was exceptional:
Bench press: 36 repetitions, where he tied for second 40-yard dash: 4.88 seconds Vertical jump: 33.5 inches, where he tied for 13th Broad jump: 113 inches 3-cone drill: 7.19 seconds, where he tied for 15th 20-yard shuttle: 4.25 seconds, tied for sixth
Three-cone: 6.59 seconds, first out of 26 receivers
20-yard shuttle: 3.98 seconds, tied for first out of 26 receivers
60-yard shuttle: 11.16 seconds, 2nd out of 13 receivers
"There aren't many receivers who did more for themselves than that guy," an AFC scout said of Hemingway. "He wasn't even on our radar going into this thing. He is now.
Therein is the inexplicable YAC knack. I wonder why it seemed like he could never get separation if he's putting up those numbers. A 225 pound guy who can change directions that fast should be open all the time.
For his part, David Molk put up 41 reps in the bench, second only to Memphis freak of nature Dontari Poe. He is furious about this, because David Molk is furious about everything.
The bust. Rivals puts out a list of recruiting class busts highlighted by Kiffin's single year at Tennessee and three consecutive Florida State classes in the dying days of the Bowden era. Michigan's '05 class checks in 7th. Michigan finished sixth in the class rankings that year and got very little from that class.
BUSTS – TALENT DIVISION
Kevin Grady (#22 overall)
Andre Criswell (not that anyone expected a ton from him)
BUSTS – CHARACTER EVALUATION DIVISION
Marques Slocum (#37)
James McKinney (#98)
Justin Schifano (not a bad guy but didn't want to play football)
Antonio Bass (#49)
Cory Zirbel (#83)
ACTUALLY USEFUL PLAYERS
Mario Manningham (#45)
Terrance Taylor (#96)
Tim McAvoy (sort of)
That's brutal. You've got a couple of okay linemen, Manningham, Taylor, and Harrison. The next year's class was decent (Brandon Graham, Steve Schilling, Jonas Mouton, Steve Brown, Brandon Minor) but didn't produce anything past the four stars save Perry Dorrestein; 2007 had Mallett and Warren as five star headliners and was then mostly junk, which set Rodriguez up for failure from the start. Rodriguez then helped matters along, of course.
This is all so clear in retrospect. One of the things I'll be looking for in the first couple Hoke classes is how many guys we see burn out for character/grade issues. It certainly seems like that number is going to be a lot lower than we saw at the tail end of the Carr regime. So far Hoke's only got Chris Barnett, the surprise tight end with red flags galore who burned out halfway through fall camp and took Kellen Jones with him. (Jones ended up at Oklahoma. QED.) That's an understandable misstep in the midst of a chaotic final month before signing day with a new roster. Since then he hasn't approached a guy with a whisper of an issue.
Popcorn time. Sports statistics fabulist David Berri is still plugging his ridiculous notion that draft status is not at all predictive of NFL QB performance. This was one of the claims that caused me to write a long screed about how useless Berri is a couple years ago in which I collected Berri debunkings in the four major sports to point out that his claims are almost always either easily proven false or simpleminded simplifications of incredibly complex questions.
This remains the case if he's still pumping his inane NFL QB study. This time Phil Birnbaum has noticed:
They argue -- as does Gladwell -- that we should just assume the guys who played less, or didn't play at all, are just as good as the guys who did play. We should just disregard the opinions of the coaches, who decided they weren't good enough.
That's silly, isn't it? I mean, it's not logically impossible, but it defies common sense. At least you should need some evidence for it, instead of just blithely accepting it as a given.
And, in any case, there's an obvious, reasonable alternative model that doesn't force you to second-guess the professionals quite as much. That is: maybe early draft choices aren't taken because they're expected to be *better* superstars, but because they're expected to be *more likely* to be superstars.
He promises future posts examining the subject. I promise they'll leave Berri's study shattered at the bottom of a ravine.
Early playing time: Right now, the plan is that I will not be redshirting. I think I'll be a second stringer, and then just go from there. But right now that's the plan between me and the coaches. . . . [I'll be playing] right tackle.
I'm not exactly stressed that Michigan might miss out on a redshirt senior year from Braden what with the 2013 OL class, but if I had to bet I'd say Braden ends up redshirting anyway.
There's a difference between Jack Miller redshirting—the world will end before you see the field this year—and Braden's spot on the depth chart. It's not too hard to envision a situation in which he's forced onto the field. Even assuming Kalis is what he's reputed to be Braden's certainly in the running to be the second guy off the bench in the event of injuries at tackle. I bet we'd see Elliott Mealer in before Braden in the event a tackle goes down with a minor injury a la Lewan last year, as they'll want to preserve that redshirt if possible.
"He just wants to tear your head off," Funk said. "He plays like that all the time and practices like that all the time, and we need that. You can Xs and Os all you want, and that’s important, but at the end of the day, it starts up front." …
Funk laughed when he described one sequence of film in which Kalis knocks over an umpire “when he was throwing someone around” and couldn’t decide whether to help the guy up or find someone else to hit.
The ref was shaken but not badly hurt. This is because Kalis was hurting someone else.
Funk also notes that none of the four guys currently in the class projects to center; that will be a priority in 2013.
“The awards were never anything that I strived to get,” Molk said, before correcting himself.
“I take that back,” he said, laughing. “The only award I wanted was the Rimington mostly because a guy who worked with us, (Michigan assistant strength coach) Dan Mozes, was a Rimington winner at West Virginia. I’d say something, and he’d say, ‘Hey, Molk, shut up. I’ve got an 80-pound trophy and you don’t.’"
He's being told he could go anywhere from the bottom of the first(!) to the third round.
Three point defense: random. This Kenpom post at ESPN($) caught my eye after I previewed a Nebraska team that is thoroughly awful at all basketball activities except opponent three-point shooting. Here are the year-to-year correlations between various defensive stats:
There are just four numbers here, but they provide a very powerful context. What stands out is that opponents' free throw percentage correlates more strongly from season to season than opponents' 3-point percentage. In other words, we can predict a team's "free throw defense" in the future based on current stats better than we could predict its 3-point defense. And I think everyone understands that a team has little control over its opponents' free throw percentage.
IE, the percentage of threes your opponents hit is not a particularly useful thing to look at, but the number of threes they get off is. Wisconsin is a particularly excellent example of this phenomenon. Last year their opponents hit 37% of their threes, good for only 299th nationally. This year that's dipped 10 percentage points and they skyrocket to first.
What does this mean for Michigan? Not a whole lot. Their three-point D is a little below average; so is their ability to prevent opponents from launching. It will be interesting to watch how that latter number changes next year as Michigan adds a ton of height.
No elite teams, continued. Following up on Monday's assertion that there don't seem to be many elite teams in college hockey this year: KRACH provides strong evidence of that. KRACH is a ranking system that's more pleasant to statistically minded folk for reasons I won't get into in case some of you are operating heavy machinery. For purposes of this argument it's useful because it not only provides a ranking but also has a strength rating.
KRACH tends to get enthusiastic about strong leagues and teams; it has a tendency to proclaim certain teams nigh invulnerable. Here's last year's version:
Note the huge jumps in rating as you climb. There's a pretty tight bunch until you hit BC and North Dakota; there's also a cliff after #7. This year there is no such gap:
KRACH ratings add to the same number every year and so provide a baseline: this year's most dominant team would be… eh… fourth last year, and the gaps between the top teams and the bottom of the top ten are significantly smaller than they usually are.
This promises to be the most wide open NCAA tournament since… well, not very long ago. Single-elimination playoff hockey remains an exercise in blind terror and weird bounces. A couple years ago three of the four one seeds crashed and burned before the Frozen Four. But if you like your barely-weighted plinko to be really hardly weighted at all this is your year. Anyone who makes it in will be eyeing the Frozen Four.
Hockey draft bits. NHL draft rankings multiply like rabbits. Hockey Prospectus has Jacob Trouba #7, Boo Nieves #30, and Phil Di Giuseppe #43. TSN has Trouba sixth…
Strengths: A mobile defenceman with length, strength and range. Plays a physical game and not afraid to take a run at an opponent. Has some offensive skills, is a good passer with vision and a hard point shot. Weaknesses: there are some questions about his overall hockey sense, needs to learn to rein in the physical play at times and play with composure.
Strengths: Very quick skater with soft hands, a sneaky release and he competes. Good offensive instincts, good size, tough to contain along the boards on the cycle. Weaknesses: Needs to keep working on his defensive duties and could play with a bit more edge more consistently. He will likely require more time in college to round out his game but has been rumoured to be leaning towards playing all four seasons in Michigan. His production has waned in second half of season.
First off, allowing CHL players to retain college eligibility could have a gigantic impact on the USHL. More top-end players would go to the CHL fully knowing that they’ll have a fall-back plan. So they can go up and get added exposure, get in front of more scouts on a nightly basis. The top end in the USHL could be significantly diminished in such a scenario.
While this move would help the NCAA’s depth, it would most likely eliminate many of the top-end players from ever making it to the NCAA. By the time a player’s Junior career is over at age 20, most would go to the NHL or AHL. Only the guys that would have otherwise played lower-level minor-league hockey would end up in college. The quality of play gets dragged down in the college ranks. While the NCAA would remain a developmental option, it also becomes a safety net for CHL players similar to what the Canadian Interuniversity Sport is right now. That’s an ugly scenario for American college hockey, which has produced NHL talent as long as it’s been in existence.
The USHL is a hugely important part of the route to college hockey and should be protected at all costs. Allowing players to go to the CHL and maintain collegiate eligibility cuts the decade-long rise of the league off at the knees. It's a nonstarter.
The only way I could see this happening is if the NCAA restricted post-CHL eligibility to just Canadians. That wouldn't hurt the USHL. Because of the double standard in place between USA Hockey and their Canadian counterpart Canadians wanting to play college hockey have to cool their heels in Junior A leagues far inferior to the USHL. If the NCAA opened the door for Canadians coming over immediately after high school, I could see it working…
…except the CHL would immediately make it not work by finding sufficient NCAA regulations to violate so that any kid in junior would never make it to campus without an inquisition. Saban teaches that it is not a good idea to give people in charge of high school/college kids incentive to not have their charges graduate. So nevermind.
This could be going better. I was really thinking there'd be a Hello post yesterday. Instead, bupkis. Armani Reeves sticks with his buddy and Alex Kozan commits to Iowa. Michigan's 50-50 shots are coming up tails. With Sam Grant headed to Oklahoma, even their better than 50-50 shots are coming up tails.
Big deal? Somewhat. It's not a huge deal to downgrade from a 3/4 star type like Kozan to a sleeper three star like new DT hotness Willie Henry*. Losing Reeves and having Yuri Wright go off the board** because of various tweets about organisms (not those organisms) does leave corner a little dodgy, especially if you look at 5'8" Cass Tech corners skeptically these days. The depth chart looks fine there, though.
OL and TE not so much. Diamond is a huge priority now and if Chris Muller looks like he might shake free from Rutgers (survey says… probably not, but not out of the question) I would hop on that rather than vacate a bunch of scholarships. Michigan has five more slots and looks like they'll fill two or three from Henry/Diamond. Insert extreme confusion about Arnett situation here.
That's Nate Meier, a running back/MLB who will either be Chad Greenway or a shiftless hobo in five years depending on which side of the ball he ends up on. The point: no one in the division is recruiting at Hoke's level and with a huge focus on getting character kids, eventually that's going to pay off.
*[Who is not the surprise I was talking about in an earlier post, FWIW. I think that is off the table now; not sure what changed but Henry certainly seems like a one for one drop in for mystery guy. Most likely scenario: they watched Henry's film just now and veered towards him over mystery guy.]
**[LEMON BET STATUS! since every post about Wright's situation ostentatiouslymentionsMichigan's withdrawal from his recruitment, it is void. The disbelief was that a player from NJ would choose to go to Colorado over Michigan; Wright basically had no choice.
Also: no, Yuri Wright did not get expelled for some frickin' tweets. That does not happen. Similarly, Michigan did not drop the kid for some frickin' tweets. Put the pieces together and you have something like Stonum. The relatively minor thing was the last straw. This is entirely speculation.]
Bye week hockey. Another chaotic weekend in college hockey saw Bowling Green win(!) and UMD come out of a weekend against Michigan Tech on the short end of things. Tech is now .500 on the year and 9-7-2 in the WCHA. Mel Pearson: I be like dang.
Anyway, when the dust cleared Michigan blipped down to seventh in the Pairwise and sixth in the CCHA, but it's not all that bad:
They are a point from a massive n-way tie for third. The schedule doesn't look that intimidating anymore, with series against #3, #8, #9, and 11, though of course there's little difference between 2-9 in the league.
What if we look at goal differential?
Michigan is #1 by a second ENG against OSU and faces #2, #7, #9, and #11. Suddenly things are manageable. After this weekend they'll be exceedingly so. Anything better than a split against Miami and they're rolling to the finish.
As for the Pairwise, pay no attention to the drop. Lowell, BC, and Ferris are ahead by RPI shavings. A collapsing OSU is ahead by a COP shaving. If Michigan plays like they deserve a one seed down the stretch they'll get it. The target number of wins to enter the CCHA playoffs as a top seed is six, which is very doable: sweep terrible BG and one other weekend, split the other two.
The only truly annoying comparison is versus CC, which overcomes a massive RPI gap by playing fewer TUCs (both teams are two games above .500) and beating Union instead of losing to them. Root against the Tigers from here on out.
"A lot of the other coaches, when I would talk to them, they’d ask, 'What other schools you looking at?'" four-star Iowa receiver Amara Darboh said. "And then then they would talk badly about the schools, or bash where I just went.
"But, not Michigan. I don’t know why they didn’t, but I like that they didn’t, and it says a lot about them."
Wormley, Reeves, and Pipkins also vouch for that. And Darboh's guardian brings up Hoke's masterful self control during a key moment:
Dan Schaefer, legal guardian of Darboh, said he was highly skeptical of Michigan because of the failures of the Rich Rodriguez era and the instability of a coaching change. Two things changed his mind.
First, it was Hoke's measured handling of struggling punter Will Hagerup in the Ohio State game last season, which was Darboh's official visit.
"He wasn’t overreacting," Schaefer said. "Like, the punter missed the snap. But (Hoke) didn’t go over there and get in his business right away. I liked that. It gave me confidence he could handle Amara."
I was uttering every cussed cuss I knew and inventing six new ones as this went down. Mienke also has a story on Darboh's turbulent past. Turbulent as in "caught in a civil war."
'98 Wisconsin. Part of Michigan's recovery from that ugly 0-2 start ("Cross is boss! Cross is boss!"):
Via Wolverine Historian, obviously. You can also check out '83 Ohio State.
Public Policy Polling just came out of the field with news that only 2 percent of Texas Republicans will vote for him for U.S. Senate. It's early yet, but if Republican political consultant Brian Mayes is correct, 2 percent is about where we should expect him to end up. In the interests of disclosure, I'm working for one of the Democrats in the race, and we aren't concerned with James in the slightest.
"I'm surprised it's that high," said Mayes. "If you ask the average Republican voter... he's remembered for the scandal at SMU and using his position at ESPN to get a wildly popular coach fired. He is by far one of the most hated men in West Texas."
"It's not that people in West Texas don't like him," said Mayes. "It's that nobody likes him."
The only downside to this is ESPN will rehire him on the Stephen A. Smith principle: ESPN hates us as much as America hates Craig James and knows we can't change the channel.
Let the looting begin. The NCAA has come to a fairly obvious realization in the aftermath of finding out there's an Indiana State:
he NCAA will look this summer at retooling its Division I governance structure amid what some officials say is growing sentiment to further split its top football-playing schools.
Association President Mark Emmert said Sunday he'll appoint a working group to examine the issue, stressing it will focus on "the way in which Division I is organized for the purposes of making decisions" - and not on a competitive format that now groups football programs into bowl and lower-tier championship subdivisions.
IE, Indiana State shouldn't be able to say anything to anyone. Anonymous officials a bit later in the piece suggest Emmert is being coy in public and another split between football programs is at least going to be spitballed.
Anything that gets San Jose State out of I-A is fine by me, but it seems unlikely anything will come to fruition here. If it does, the break should be based on institutional support offered a football team. If it's over X, GTFO. Prediction: if there is a split, eventually those left behind from the current I-A will merge with FCS as it becomes increasingly difficult to tell the two lower divisions apart.
Success with… actually let's just scratch both. Penn State cuts freshman center Peter Alexis from its basketball team, effective at the end of the season. This is described as the result of a… "carefrontation." That is not a word.
Alexis appears to be a good student and has not gotten in any trouble. Two thirds of BSD voters say this is okay even if it was "purely based on his basketball ability."
"I don't like it; I don't care about it; it (ticks) me off," Molk said. "It just adds to my anger."
Also, Molk has to be Michigan's internet-era record holder for most bowdlerized quotes in the newspaper. This story alone has the above plus:
"Missing the Senior Bowl (stinks)."
And then Barwis gets in on it:
"It shows something to the NFL that the guy tore a tendon off a bone and played with a tendon off the bone, and he said, '(Forget) it, I'm going to dominate a game."
Etc.: The East side upper deck of Spartan Stadium is "kind of like 1980s Poland," says A Beautiful Day For Football, which I can vouch for since I've been in it three times. If it was just a holding pen for opposing fans it would make sense. It's not. How to tweet at recruits. I'm surprised Kenpom isn't sitting on top of something tall, screaming "COME AT ME BRO" about Wisconsin after the Badgers resurrected their season.
I still can't believe it's called "The Journey," which should by rights be a Hallmark Channel series about entering puberty. But it's talking Michigan-Michigan State. Cazzie Russell gets his eyebrow on and Novak rains threes in Breslin:
Once regularly an asylum for 1,200 Crazies, Section 17 at Cameron Indoor Stadium now rarely plays host to a student-only crowd.
Student attendance at men’s basketball games has fallen consistently over the last five years, even dropping after Duke won its fourth national championship in 2010. This season, approximately 650 undergraduates have attended each game, 150 fewer than during the 2008-09 season. As a result, Duke Athletics has begun to sell an increasing number of general admission tickets in the student section on a regular basis.
“It has nothing to do with the revenue. We just want it to be full,” Director of Marketing and Relations Mike Forman said. “If there were 1,200 students every game we would love it.”
I've given Michigan students crap for late/spotty attendance at football and hockey (basketball seems immune for some reason) but, like… Jebus. If Duke can't sell out their student tickets it is a nationwide epidemic.
The article goes on to describe a couple of reasons for the decline: the prevalence of online streaming (which seems ludicrous since I'm sure all Duke games are televised in Durham) and "the students' misconception of the time commitment involved." Apparently it's first-come, first-serve and you show up for a game sans ticket and hope to get in. That's a little nuts.
Even if Duke is too far at one end of the scale, Michigan could slide closer to them without incurring the same effect. Offer incentives for having your tickets scanned on time or early and revoke student ticket privileges for people who don't bother to show up.
There is "growing support" among conference commissioners, athletic directors and bowl officials to increase the difficulty of becoming bowl eligible by requiring teams to have seven victories, or a winning record, when the new BCS cycle begins in 2014, multiple sources have told CBSSports.com. The seven-win requirement would also mean a handful of bowls likely would be discontinued because there would not be enough eligible teams to fill all of the current 70 berths. In the past two years alone, 27 teams with 6-6 records were needed to fill all the bowl slots, meaning nearly 20 percent of the bowl field didn't have a winning record.
That would hack out about seven of the existing bowls, none of which would be missed in the slightest. It would still allow a dozen or more bowls that are net negatives to exist. The way to fix the current system is to get rid of ticket and hotel guarantees and let the bowls, not the schools, assume the risk of a crappy matchup.
Slicing out the bottom of the barrel is better than nothing, I guess. And at least athletic directors and presidents are getting wise to the scam:
"The 7-5 proposal is getting serious support," a non-BCS bowl official said. "They're telling a coach [that] 6-6 doesn't cut it, but then the coach gets a $50,000 or $100,000 bonus for a bowl game that none of the fan base wants to see. Athletic directors feel like they're pouring money down a hole and they're getting frustrated with it. The only people making out on 6-6 bowl games are the coaches."
You’ve probably heard about Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson’s phenomenal six-goal game with the St. Louis Blues in 1968. But what about the record-breaking season of one of his assistants, who averaged over five goals per game en route to a 413-goal campaign?
“They didn’t even keep those stats when I was a kid,” Berenson said.
He's certain of one thing, though: He has doubters. And he knows exactly where they can go.
"It's just, stuff like that pisses me off," Molk said, voice rising. "Any scout who denies me pisses me off. 'Oh, this is what you got. You’re not good enough.'
"Well, (to hell with) you, let me show you what I got."
For the record, I have never doubted Molk and move around constantly so my location cannot be pinned down. Also, Molk's Sugar Bowl injury was a severed tendon. Competition for center of the 2010s is now closed.
Surprise unwarranted. After the Purdue game I noted that Michigan's bench was a nonfactor this year. A UMHoops mailbag points out that is no outlier:
Here are the statistics for the percentage of minutes played by the bench (Bench Minutes/Total minutes) under John Beilein since 2005:
Beilein has high expectations and he’s going to play who he trusts at any given time.
The last three years Michigan has been incredibly thin. I'm hoping that changes next year. Michigan's not going to shoot up into Arkansas territory but if they can get into the middle of the pack injuries get a lot less frightening and players having off nights can spend more of them on the bench.
C David Molk. Rimington winner, four year starter, epic team glue guy, man whose body does not narrow in its transition from shoulders to neck.
RT Mark Huyge. Not great but consistently unkillable long-term starter who graded out well as a senior and must be replaced by exactly one person.
TE Kevin Koger. Did not see production increase significantly from RR years; capable of circus catches and routine drops; decent but not spectacular blocker; zero depth behind him.
[serious worry stops here]
WR Junior Hemingway. Fairly ponderous leaper with inexplicable YAC knack; decent hands; should be replaceable if Darryl Stonum makes it back. Given the lack of swift action to boot after Stonum got pulled over, I assume that is the case. In the event Stonum is dismissed Hemingway moves up to #2.
WR Martavious Odoms. The very first slot ninja; missed big chunks of the season due to injury and lack of trust from the coaching staff but came on late; mountain goat with arms; Jeremy Gallon is basically Odoms except quicker.
TE Steve Watson. Used mostly as a blocker. Was okay at it.
[slight worry stops here]
RB Michael Shaw. BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE
WR Kelvin Grady. Infrequently targeted slot receiver will be ably replaced by an expanded role for Drew Dileo.
FB John McColgan. Lost his job to Hopkins mid-year.
WR Terrance Robinson (maybe). Has a fifth year available but will have to earn it as a gunner on punts.
RB Michael Cox (in all probability). Fifth year available, but highly unlikely to get it since he can't remember which endzone to run at.
Robinson, Lewan, Fitzgerald
QB Denard Robinson. Oh my gawd.
LT Taylor Lewan. Should be the first of two first-team All Big Ten years.
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Will put himself in the conversation for best back in the league.
RT (presumably) Michael Schofield. Established himself a quality Big Ten OL despite playing out of position at guard. Will likely shift over to tackle, his natural position, because there ain't no one else to play it.
WR Roy Roundtree. Converted to outside WR and saw production collapse as Worst Waldo plays on which he acquired free 50 yard touchdowns evaporated; still managed some deep balls; should be reliable B+ option as a senior.
WR Jeremy Gallon. Diminutive guy with extensive quicks; throwback screen merchant; seemingly good hands; cloaking device available.
OG Patrick Omameh. Struggled early and still too light for Michigan's long term desires; improved his ability to pull by the end of the year.
OG(?) Ricky Barnum. Won the left guard job over Schofield, who proved an able contributor once Barnum went down with injury; graded out decently before that; may move to center.
RB Vincent Smith. Uninspiring runner; fantastic pass blocker; also a throwback screen merchant. Third down back.
FB Stephen Hopkins. Fumble issues threatened to bury him on the bench before midseason shift to FB; tailback-ish agility serves him well; quality option; may have extensive role next year thanks to lack of TEs.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
Barnum, Kalis, Bryant
One Of Three Guys On The Interior Line. The world assumes Schofield is the heir apparent at right tackle. This is a good assumption since the list of scholarship non-freshman, non-Lewan tackles on the roster reads "Michael Schofield." That paves the way for one and a half new starters on the interior.
The half is all but certainly Barnum, who had a few starts early in the season before ankle issues took him out of the lineup. He will start at center or guard, in all likelihood. Candidates for the one include:
Redshirt freshman Chris Bryant, a 350-pound mauler who needs to trim down if he's going to get on the field.
Redshirt freshman Jack Miller, a 260-pound dancer who needs to bulk up if he's going to get on the field.
True freshman Kyle Kalis, a five star reputed to be college-ready like a mofo. Moved to guard at the Army game and seems to acknowledge his long term future is on the inside.
Redshirt senior Rocko Khoury, the long-presumed replacement for Molk who snapped some balls not so well when suddenly pressed into service against VT. Khoury has a start against Iowa in 2010 to his credit but the buzz is he is not a preferable option.
Redshirt senior Elliot Mealer. Mealer was a utility guy deployed after Barnum's exit whenever Taylor Lewan needed a limb reattached. He is useful depth but seems likely to be passed by one of the above on the depth chart.
Losing Molk is brutal but finding a serviceable replacement from one of the above three seems likely.
Someone at tight end. With two departures and a bad gamble in last year's recruiting class the only tight ends on the roster are redshirt senior Brandon Moore and redshirt sophomore Ricardo Miller. Moore supposedly has stone hands; his main contribution to last year was blowing his assignment on Michigan's ill-fated fourth and one attempt versus Michigan State. Miller is a converted WR who needs to add 20 pounds if he's going to press for playing time.
Reinforcements will come from two or three freshmen; 280 pound AJ Williams is probably the most pret a porter. He's big, you see, and Devin Funchess is not. Williams spent his senior year of high school impressing people at tackle and is likely to be more of a sixth offensive lineman than a dynamic receiver.
Stonum being indie
Sort of Darryl Stonum, maybe. The WR corps gets a one for one replacement on both of its departed slots and may/should/could return Darryl Stonum, who was suspended for the 2011 season after his second DUI. His latest legal trouble consists of driving to a probation meeting, which may or may not move Hoke's needle.
If he's back, Michigan gets its most physically gifted WR, someone who can beat you over the top and could have an explosive final season on the end of Al Borges's copious deep balls. Or he could be another version of what he's been most of his career: an athlete who doesn't really know how to play WR. Stonum's availability and play is the biggest wildcard on the 2012 offense.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1972
Senior Denard, you'd think. Robinson panicked and reverted against the swarming VT defense; before that he'd put together a solid second half as he began to understand the offense and maybe possibly got healthy. With another year in the system he should improve on his throwing numbers.
Tailback, probably. Fitzgerald Toussaint is for real as long as he's healthy and Vincent Smith is a quality third down back. Depth still looks hairy.
The starting tackles. Lewan was impenetrable this year and Schofield had a strong debut at guard. Dollars to donuts they're the best bookends in the conference.
Going from year one to year two with the same coaches. Everyone was a freshman last year. Now they've got some sophomores.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2012
Tight end. After a couple years playing with Koger and Martell Webb it appeared that Rodriguez had come around on the idea of tight ends, as he recruited a half-dozen over the course of his last year at Michigan. Unfortunately, he struck out on all of them. When Hoke came in he grabbed Arkansas decommit Chris Barnett without checking into the guy; he was gone before his first fall camp ended.
With Koger and Watson out the door, this leaves very little at a position Borges loves. Fifth-year-senior-to-be Brandon Moore's most significant contribution to the 2011 season was busting his assignment on Michigan's ill-fated fourth and one against Michigan State; he's the only tight end on the roster now. To bolster that depth Michigan will bring in two or three in the fall and I bet you a dollar a defensive lineman with a Z in his last name finds himself on the other side of the ball this spring.
This does not mean things can be expected to go well here.
Offensive line depth. Rodriguez's 0-fer on the OL two years ago really begins to squeeze in 2012. The interior will probably be fine, with three of Khoury/Mealer/Bryant/Miller available to spot any starters that go out. Five-star freshman Kyle Kalis turns out to be 6'4" and is talking about how much he likes guard; plugging him in there will probably not be a disaster.
It's at tackle where there is a terrifying cliff after the starters. Past a couple of guys who could end up bookending the All Big Ten OL there is nothing but walk-ons and true freshmen. Michigan's best bet in the event of an injury to Lewan or Schofield is probably flipping Barnum or Omameh outside.
Gamebreakers at WR. Stonum, Roundtree, and Gallon isn't the worst unit Michigan's run out at WR in the past decade or so but it's no Edwards, Avant, and Breaston. Stonum's breakout junior year was only a breakout relative to his underclass performance: 49 catches for 633 yards.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
Will Borges go with the flow? This blog spent most of the summer demanding a shotgun-exclusive offense that incorporated Borges's passing trees with some of the power blocking Hoke could not stop talking about. By the end of the year that's basically what we got en route to what was probably Michigan's best-ever offensive performance against the Indianapolis-Fort Wayne Mad Antz. The numbers, helpfully recompiled by Seth* after that game, are stark:
The Ace numbers are a small sample and are heavily dependent on Fitzgerald Toussaint's long jet in the Purdue game, FWIW.
When Michigan runs from the shotgun, holy pants. Downshifting into the I-Form may be appropriate for short yardage situations and as a change of pace, but that's all it's good for, especially when you consider that Michigan's ripped their tough closing slate for 5.5, 4.5**, and 6.4 yards a carry without dropping into the I for much more than goal line duty. As I said in the OSU game recap, by the end of the year it kind of seemed like the transition costs of moving from Rodriguez to Borges were zero.
So that worked better than anyone expected it to after Michigan learned a couple of harsh lessons. Q: will they accept that verdict in 2012 or try to change it? Despite the clear advantages of running from the shotgun in 2011, it's clear where Borges wants to take the offense long-term. With a lot more BEEFCAKE on the interior line it could work better… but…
[thousand word rant about removing Denard's legs from the equation]
…in the EYE with a FORKING FORK.
How much will Denard progress? It became less about accuracy late in the year and more about just knowing where to go with the ball. His default action when he doesn't know what to do should be take off; instead it's unleashing the deep-ball dragon. Michigan has to find a way to not completely bog down against elite defenses, because a quick glance on the schedule shows quite a few that promise to approach that level.
Will the real Toussaint injury vulnerability please stand up? Brionte Dunn has cast his lot with Test Drive U, leaving Michigan with a non-obvious answer to "what happens if Toussaint is injured?" It could be Vincent Smith but Toussaint's emergence has reminded us all of what a nice bonus it is to have a playmaker at tailback. Thomas Rawls comes Fred Jackson approved, for what that's worth. Justice Hayes is coming off a redshirt year with a lot of recruiting hype… that said he was a great fit for a spread.
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
Static yardage-wise, more under center stuff I'll loathe, significantly reduced interceptions from Denard, about the same with less tendency to get totally shut down by top tier Ds. A slight upgrade overall.
*[Is it as much of a relief to everyone else that you no longer have to figure out how to pronounce "Misopogon"?]
**[Nebraska; these totals were depressed by a lot of predictable Michigan plods into the line in the fourth Q. Seth's numbers only include the first three quarters in games closer than 18 points, FWIW, which slashes out big chunks of Minnesota.]